The Comstock Laws
February 13, 1931 — Subcommittee on the Judiciary, US Senate, Washington DC
There is only one state in the union where the giving of advice [on birth control] would be doubtful, and that is Mississippi. All the other states give a physician the right to give such information in his private practice provided he can get [contraceptive devices] from the manufacturer. That is what our amendment provides for.
When this law was passed in 1873, there was very little information concerning the medical and sociological importance of the practice of contraception. The subject of birth control or contraception was wrongly classed with indecency, obscenity, and abortion. The passage of this law in 1873 really closed the avenues of proper scientific information and research by the medical profession, medical schools, and medical universities in this country.
It has done untold harm to classify contraception in that category. It is an insult to every decent married woman in the country who wants to bring up her family intelligently. It prevents her from applying the benefits of science to the cultivation of her children and the bringing up of her family; and, furthermore, to all intents and purposes, it classifies every married woman in the country as a “child-bearing conscript.” Unless a woman has some means of preventing conception and spacing her children, she is forced to bear children like an animal, and in fact animals are not allowed to breed in sickness and with diseased bodies as the women of this country are made to do today.
This bill is simple. It is conservative. It is constructive, because it simply allows the physician at a hospital or licensed clinic to receive such supplies and to give such information.
The passage of this bill would be the first attempt on the part of the Congress to place the responsibility of giving contraceptive instruction into the hands of the medical profession, where it rightly belongs.
It would be the first attempt on the part of Congress to give the medical profession the control of such knowledge, which we know is very promiscuously scattered about today. It would let physicians regulate the kind of device used and thus wipe out the present traffic in wrong and harmful devices. The poor mothers, the people who should have the information, are uninformed and are denied the proper kind of devices suitable to their own individual requirements.
Source: Hearings before a Subcommittee on the Judiciary, United States Senate. 71st Congress, 3rd session, February 13-14. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office) 1931, pp. 9-10.